Academic may lose privileges in China

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 September, 2011, 12:00am


A prominent Chinese-born researcher hired by Harbin Medical University via a global recruitment scheme by the central government could lose privileges in China as an honoured professor following a decision by a Canadian research institute to shut down his laboratory amid an investigation into scientific misconduct.

The Montreal Heart Institute (MHI) has fired Dr Wang Zhiguo following an investigation into two studies he retracted from a prominent scientific publication, the Journal of Biological Chemistry, Canadian Press news agency reported.

The institute said its investigation found that Wang 'deviated from MHI's ethical standards of proper scientific conduct and his responsibilities as a researcher'. Wang, now a Canadian citizen, was hired by the School of Pharmacy at Harbin Medical University last year through the Recruitment Programme of Global Experts, a global headhunting scheme developed by the organisation department of the Communist Party's Central Committee in 2008.

Wang had previously been honoured as an elite professor under the Changjiang Scholars Programme in 2007 for his academic achievements in heart disease research. He was exploring why heart rhythms go awry.

The scholars programme is a higher-education development scheme jointly established by the Ministry of Education and the Hong Kong-based Li Ka Shing Foundation in 1998.

An official from a Ministry of Education office in charge of the programme said yesterday the office had yet to decide what action it would take. Recipients of the Changjiang award could have their titles stripped and forfeit their benefits for any violation of academic ethics or the criminal code, according to the programme's charter.

Wang was one of nine academics hired by the Heilongjiang government via the central government's recruitment scheme, known as the One Thousand Talents Scheme, and each was given 1.5 million yuan (HK$1.82 million) in funding, including one million yuan from the central government coffers.

A spokeswoman for Harbin Medical University said it was aware of the investigation by the MHI, but had yet to make a decision.While blaming a mix-up of images in illustrating the data for the research into heart rhythms in 2007 and 2008, Wang insisted that the research itself was solid and had been reproduced.

However, Jean-Claude Tardif, director of the MHI Research Centre, said the hospital had concerns with how images used in the research were manipulated - and that it must enforce strict scientific standards.

The institute also requested retractions of three additional published articles, but did not disclose any further details of its investigation.

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research, which funded one of the studies retracted earlier this year, said it had frozen Wang's funding.

Dr Wang Huiyao, director general of the Centre for China and Globalization, who has advised the party central committee's organisation department on the global recruitment scheme, said more than 1,500 scholars had been hired via the scheme and it was not unusual to have one or two mishaps, but said it was too early to draw a conclusion over the conduct of Wang Zhiguo.


The year the Montreal Heart Institute was founded.

- The hospital is affiliated with the University of Montreal